Domaines Barons de Rothschild Announce Chateau Rieussec Will Not Produce a Vintage for 2012

Following on from Chateau d’Yquem‘s decision not to make a 2012 wine Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Chateau Lafite) have also announced that Chateau Rieussec will not be making one either according to

Director Charles Chevallier told Decanter that they ‘simply felt there was not sufficient juice of first wine quality to justify the production this year.’ They will, however, be making the Second Wine, Les Carmes de Rieussec:

This is the first vintage that we have made no [first] wine since 1993, but it has been a challenging year and the quality of our bottling must always be the priority.’

As with d’Yquem I think that the Rothschild’s decision is rooted more in marketing strategy than the fact that the vintage was that poor. Rieussec has suffered over the years from being offered alongside Lafite’s more well-known wines – Duhart Milon for example. The result has been that merchants scrabble for their allocations of Lafite etc.

And, as Rieussec is tied in to the conditions of sale, cases of Rieussec usually flood the market. Rieussec has subsequently suffered as this not a good situation for such a wine to be in.

Last year I covered Rieussec’s situation in my blog Chateau Rieussec – The Next Big Thing? The Dilemma of a First Growth and when you consider that some merchants were offering a ‘buy one, get two’ deal on the wine it’s easy to see why Domaines Barons de Rothschild have decided to hold back on the 2012 vintage. Last year comments on Twitter made suggestions as to what to do with Rieussec such as running your car on it, swimming in it and having a party with it!

It’s about time Rieussec was appreciated for the wine that it is rather than being part of a parcel of other wines.

The Rothschild’s are not the only chateaux to adopt this practice – it’s common in Bordeaux to make a conditional offer to merchants that tie in a different wine at En Primeur to the one being sold. In effect you are sometimes forced to buy cases of Chateau X when you only really want Chateau Y to seal the deal.

In Rieussec’s case this type of poor marketing strategy has only served to undervalue the wine. Is this any way to market a First Growth? Hopefully we will see Rieussec being sold separately on its own merits in the future rather than as a lump lot.

Historically Rieussec once belonged to the Carmelite monks of Langon – the same monastic order which owned and gave their name to Chateau Carmes de Haut Brion. Rieussec lies in the commune of Fargues neighbouring d’Yquem and was purchased by the Domaines Barons de Rothschild in 1984.

Rieussec takes its name from the stream called Ruisseau which runs between the 2 chateaux and sec, meaning dry, as the stream regularly dries up in the summer months.

Its wines were classified as First Growth in 1855 along with Chateaux Climens, Clos Haut Peyraguey, Coutet, de Suduirat, Guiraud, La Tour Blanche, Lafaurie Peyraguey, Rabuad Promis, Rayne Vigneau and Siglas Rabaud. To my knowledge all these chateaux have made 2012 wines.

Bérénice Lurton, owner of Chateau Climens told Decanter that they had managed to produce some high quality wine, as did Denis Dubourdieu of Chateau Doisy Daene. So, all in all, it seems that the decision not to make a Rieussec 2012 has more to it than it first appears.

Sadly the message that Yquem and Rieussec are sending out about the 2012 Sauternes casts an undeserved shadow over the other chateaux of the region that have produced good wine this year.

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